Popular Science Monthly/Volume 69/August 1906/The Progress of Science

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The Campus of Cornell University, with Cayuga Lake in the Distance.
 


THE PROGRESS OF SCIENCE

CORNELL UNIVERSITY AND THE SUMMER MEETING OF THE AMERICAN ASSOCIATION.

When the American Association for the Advancement of Science decided to hold a special summer session between the winter meetings in New Orleans and New York City, it was well advised in choosing Ithaca as the place. There is probably no other university in the world with such a beautiful site and surroundings, and there are but few institutions whose buildings, equipment and work are of greater interest to students of science. Ithaca is not far from the center of scientific population, and Cornell is in many ways intermediate between the eastern private foundations, such as Harvard. Yale and Columbia, and the state institutions of the central west, such as Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin.

Cornell owed its origin to state support combined with the generosity of the man whose name it perpetuates. One of the most beneficent acts of congress, notable for its wisdom and because it was proposed in the midst of the civil war, was the land grant for the establishment in each state of a college primarily for agriculture and the mechanic arts. The act, approved July 2. 1802, provided that there should be granted to the several states public lands, thirty thousand acres for each senator and representative of congress, from the sale of which there should be established a perpetual fund "the interest of which shall be inviolably appropriated, by each state which may take and claim the benefit of this act, to the endowment, support and maintenance of at least one college, where the leading object shall be, without excluding other scientific and classical studies, and including military tactics, to teach such branches of learning as are related to agriculture and the mechanic arts, in such manner as the legislatures of the states may respectively prescribe, in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life."

New York state received about a million acres, and, thanks largely to the wisdom of Mr. Ezra Cornell, most of the land was held until ultimately it yielded over five million dollars. In accordance with Mr. Cornell's well-known words, 'I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.' Cornell University was established in 1805 and j opened in the autumn of 1808. Thanks to the wise administration of Dr. Andrew D. White, to a loyal group of able teachers and men of science, to state support and private beneficence, Cornell has become one of the great universities of the country and of the world, fulfilling as nearly as may be the dreams of its founder. There are now some five hundred officers and four thousand students divided among departments as follows: the graduate department, the college of arts and sciences, the college of law, the medical college, the New York state veterinary college, the college of agriculture, the college of architecture, the college of civil engineering, the Sibley college of mechanical engineering and mechanic arts.

At Cornell University a gathering of scientific men could not be other than pleasant and profitable. There were in all about 400 in attendance at the meetings which were held from June 27 to July 3. This is as large a group as is necessary or even desirable for the enjoyment of those who are present. It might, however, have been expected that a larger number would have taken advantage of the opportunity. The chemists, physicists and others who held technical meetings came in fair numbers, but there were not many who attended the meeting in order to see the university and the surrounding regions, to meet their colleagues in other departments and learn of the general forward movement in science, or to do their share in promoting the organization of scientific work and scientific men. Thus sections A and K held no meetings at Ithaca; the special societies whose subjects were included in those sections—mathematics, astronomy, physiology, anatomy, pathology, psychology, etc., did not hold meetings, and the registration in those sections was four members. The absence of those who are not professional students of science was also noticeable and probably regrettable. It should be one of the functions of the association to keep science in touch with the larger public and to increase scientific interest throughout the country. It was hoped that the resumption of summer meetings would be a step in this direction, but it does not seem that very much was accomplished at Ithaca.

Yet the character of the meeting, as well as its place, was as attractive as could well be. Dr. Welch, our leading pathologist, was an admirable presiding officer and gave two interesting addresses. Two addresses were given by President Schurman and one by Dr. Andrew D. White. The evening lectures, by Professor Carhart on the South African meeting of the British Association and by Professor Branner on the California earthquake, were particularly timely and interesting. The new physical laboratory of the university was dedicated, and Sigma Xi celebrated the twentieth anniversary of its foundation. The excursions arranged by the

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The Library of Cornell University.

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Sibley College of Mechanical Engineering.

geologists, botanists, chemists, engineers and economists were in every way successful. Thus apart from the more special scientific programs, which in several subjects were very good, there was much to attract all who are interested in science, and those who were present will remember the Ithaca meeting as one of the most pleasant in the history of the association.

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The State Veterinary College.

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Beebe Lake and Triphammer Falls on the Edge of the Cornell Campus.

 

LEGISLATION AND SCIENCE

Government is becoming' more and more an application of science. Politics are still largely a game and a trade; the kind of science at hand is crude and is applied by the rule of thumb. But if the proceedings of successive parliaments or congresses are reviewed, there is an evident tendency for legislation to rest increasingly on expert knowledge and to require continually greater scientific skill in its execution. When the constitution of the United States was written, the threefold division of the functions of the government—legislative, executive and judicial—was adequate. Now, however, it may be urged that the scientific or expert functions are coordinate with the others. Laws may be made by the congress, interpreted by the courts and executed by the president, but they should be based on scientific investigations and carried out by scientific experts.

We are told that municipal government should be divorced from politics, and this is doubtless true. A municipality is primarily a business or engineering corporation. Its main concern is with streets, sewers, parks and docks; with schools, hospitals and public institutions: with water, light and the means of transportation and communication. But there are equally sound reasons for keeping the government of a state or nation free from politics and conducting its affairs with such skill and efficiency as are attainable. There are certain questions that are quite outside the limits of such science as we now have, for example, the desirability of more or less centralization, paternalism, aristocracy, war or religion. The people may legitimately divide themselves into parties on such lines. Science may be unable to answer the question as to whether the government should conduct the postoffice, the express business or the railways, but when the government has undertaken to manage the mails, it makes no more difference whether the postmaster general is a republican or a democrat, than whether he is a catholic or a protestant. married or single. It would be well if we could separate those questions which must for the present be settled by party government from those which should be decided by expert knowledge, and if the latter could be settled by men having the necessary special training. And of course nearly all the executive work of the government should be done by experts, and a large part by those who are technically men of science.

The main questions before the first session of the fifty-ninth congress were concerned with the extension of federal control by the regulation of interstate commerce, and may be regarded as outside the scope of this journal. But the decisions of the congress rested, or should have rested, on statistical or other scientific data. In the execution of the laws relating to railway rates, meat inspection and pure food, a large number of trained scientific men will be required. The removal of the tax on alcohol which has been 'denatured' will have an important effect on the arts. While we should like to see the decimal system of weights and measures or even a duodecimal system made compulsory, it must be admitted that technical opinion is so divided that the house can scarcely be blamed for rejecting the measure. Of direct scientific interest were the bills protecting Niagara Falls, the Mariposa trees of California and the antiquities on the public lands. Although the main increase in the appropriation for the Department of Agriculture was for meat inspection, its scientific work was enlarged in several directions. The appropriation for rebuilding the Military Academy at West Point was increased to $6,500,000. A lock canal at Panama carried to the height of eighty-five feet was decided on, and the sum of $42.500,000 was appropriated for the work.

 

SCIENTIFIC ITEMS.

We record with regret the deaths of Dr. Henry A. Ward, president of Ward's Natural History Establishment at Rochester, and Dr. Fritz Schaudinn, recently appointed head of the parasitological department of the Institute for Tropical Diseases of Hamburg and well known for his work on the protozoa.

The Ordre pour le Mérite has been conferred on Professor Robert Koch by the German Emperor.—Dr. Ernst Mach, of Vienna, has been awarded the Bavarian Maximilian order for science and art.—Professor Simon Newcomb has been elected a member of the board of overseers of Harvard College.—The Society of Arts has awarded its Albert medal to Sir Joseph W. Swan, F.R.S., 'for the important part he took in the invention of the incandescent electric lamp, and for his invention of the carbon process of photographic printing.'

Announcement has been made of the resignation of Dr. William T. Harris, commissioner of education, and of the nomination of his successor, Professor Elmer E. Brown, of the University of California. Dr. Harris's retirement has been made possible by a retiring allowance from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. This action was taken by the trustees of the foundation under one of their rules which permits of such action in the case of extraordinary and unusual service to education. Dr. Harris has been the commissioner of education since 1889, and has, perhaps, had a larger and more intimate connection with the whole body of teachers than any other man. The offer to him of this retiring allowance was an act of the highest regard for his work and places his name at the head of the list of distinguished men who have accepted such retiring allowances from the Carnegie Foundation.—Dr. D. E. Salmon, from 1884 to 1905 chief of the Bureau of Animal Industry, has accepted the offer of the government of Uruguay to organize a Bureau of Animal Industry for that country. Dr. Salmon, who is at present engaged in scientific work in Montana, will start for South America about December 1.

The protocol providing for the establishment of an international institute of agriculture at Rome, Italy, has been adopted by the congress. There are about forty governments party to the arrangement. Studies will be made of all kinds of plant life and means of extermination of insects and other pests. The institute will receive the reports of the agricultural bureaus and societies of all countries. The Italian government will supply the buildings, and the cost to other governments will be about $5,000 a year each.